Chapter 5 Ancient India and China

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Chapter 5

Ancient India and China

Chapter Preview: People, Places, and Events

Indus Valley Civilization

Who was this man? Find out about the people of ancient India. Lesson 1,Page 126

Young Buddhist Monks

Buddhism arose in India to become a major world religion. Lesson 2, Page 132

Asoka’s Stupa

What is a stupa? Who built it? Lesson 2, Page 135


Lesson 1

The Geography of

Ancient South Asia

Main Idea Complex civilizations arose in ancient India and China.

Key Vocabulary




The soldiers struggled through the snow, dwarfed by the rock wall that rose above their heads. In places these mountains soared more than 25,000 feet above sea level. This was the Hindu Kush (HIN doo KUSH), the westernmost range in a chain of mountain ranges that includes the 1,500-mile-long Himalayas (him uh LAY uhz). While these mountains had passes — gaps through which people could travel — they could be deadly.

The tiny figures weaving through the mountain pass were the troops of Alexander the Great. The year was 327 B.c., and Alexander, one of the most successful generals the world has ever known, had come all the way from Greece, conquering every land he came to. He and his army were braving the fierce, freezing winds and deep river gorges to extend their conquest to the Indian subcontinent — a vast area of land that forms a major part of a continent. But Alexander was not India's first invader.

Key Places


Indian subcontinent

Indus River


---The towering peaks of the Himalayas.

The Great Wall of China

What's so great about the Great Wall of China? Lesson 3, Page 136

The Silk Road

The Silk Road began with a little worm like this — and ended up in Rome! Lesson 3, Page 138

An Emperor’s Army

Who would construct an army of life-size clay soldiers and why? Lesson 4, Page 144-145


---These beautifully carved stone seals were used by Indus Valley traders. Science: What animals do these seals show?

---Map Skill: Can you find where the trade route uses a pass?

River Valley Civilization

Focus How did India's river valleys give rise to civilization?

Just as in Egypt and Sumer, the valleys that gave birth to India's civiliza­tion were formed by great rivers. The Ganges and Indus rivers emerge from the Himalayas and flow out across the plains of northern India. If you trace each of these rivers with your finger on the map below, you will find that the Ganges continues its journey east into the Bay of Bengal, while the Indus heads west to the Arabian Sea. The mouths of these rivers form deltas with excellent growing soil.

During the rainy season, from early summer to late fall, a moist wind blows off the Indian Ocean. This wind creates a weather condition known as the monsoon. As the monsoon winds blow, rains blanket the subcontinent. The Indus and the Ganges overflow their banks. These floods can cause devastation. They also spread badly needed nutrients across the fields, helping crops grow.

As you can see from the map, the Indian subcontinent is nearly diamond-shaped. The pointed ton is crowned by a spiky mountain range. One of those spikes, Mount Everest in the Himalayas, soars almost as high as a cruising passenger jet. At 29,028 feet above sea level, it is Earth's highest mountain.

Most of southern India is covered by the rocky Deccan Plateau. The valleys that gave rise to Indian civilization are nestled between this plateau and the mountains to the north. The coasts of the subcontinent are narrow,  marshy strips. Legend

Little is known about India's prehistoric inhabitants. They may have come through those same treacherous passes that Alexander took — as many as 10,000 years before the conqueror made his journey. What is known is that


around 2500 B.C. — more than 2,000 years before Alexander — an extensive farming civilization arose in the Indus River valley. At its height, this civilization covered nearly half a million square miles — more than Egypt and Sumer put together. Unlike those powerful empires, however, the Indus Valley people were only loosely knit together by a common culture and similar religion. Their primary concern was trade, which they pur­sued as far as Mesopotamia, both by land and by sea. The map on the previous page shows the major routes used by the Indus Valley traders, including the pass through the danger­ous Hindu Kush.

Life in Mohenjo-Daro

The ruins of two major centers of Indus Valley trade and government, Mohenjo-Daro (mo HEN jo DAHR oh) and Harappa (huh RAP uh), pro­vide most of what we now know about ancient India. Life in Mohenjo­-Daro had some features that were remarkably modern for the period. An advanced plumbing system allowed its residents to take showers and helped keep the city clean and healthy — a necessity in the valley heat, which often reached 120° F. Merchants, whose ranks included women, used the decimal system just as we do today.

As well ordered as it was, Indus Valley life was destined to change. After nearly a thousand years of relative calm along the river, a new and very different people were headed for the subcontinent.

Mohenjo-Daro's streets were straight and well planned. The simple buildings had few windows, and those were on upper stories. They may have been designed this way to keep the owners safe from thieves and wild animals. Cultures: Why do you think there are few great monuments from this civilization?

Lesson Review: Geography

1. Key Vocabulary: Use subcontinent and monsoon in a paragraph about farming in ancient India. Use passes in a sentence about the Himalayas.

2. Focus: How did India's river valleys give rise to civilization?

3. Critical Thinking: Interpret Explain the meaning of this statement: The Hindu Kush is like a wall with cracks in it.

4. Theme: Lasting Beginnings How did the monsoon in a paragraph about farming in monsoon help Indian civilization start?

5. Geography/Art Activity: Design your own blueprints for Mohenjo-Daro. Remember to use a grid layout for the streets a d to include markets and government buildings.


Lesson 2

The Culture and Religions

of Ancient India

Main Idea Migrating people brought changes to Indian culture new oral traditions, belief systems, and art forms.

Key Vocabulary





An ancient Indian poem called the Bhagavad-Gita (bah guh vand GEE ta), or Lord's Song, describes the experiences of superhero Prince Arjuna (AHR juh nuh), a fearless warrior. Arjuna rides into battle on a swift war chariot. Neither the chariot that bore the prince nor the poem that described it had been known to the people of the Indus Valley civi­lization. Who brought these things to the subcontinent, and why?

The Aryan Migration

Focus What effect did Aryan migration have on Indian culture?

About 4,000 years ago, Mohenjo-Daro and the other Indus Valley cities fell into decay. Perhaps the Indus River had shifted course, either leaving their communities high and dry or flooding them. Whatever the case, about 250 years after this decline, a new people appeared on the plains of India. They were the Aryans.

Much less is known about the Aryans than about more settled, agricultural peoples. They led lives of constant movement, and left behind no monuments or buildings. What is known is that the Aryans came from the plains northwest of India. There they must have lived like other nomadic inhabitants of that region,

Key Events

2500 –1750 B.C. Indus Valley civi­lization

1500 B.C. Aryan Migration

540 B.C. Rise of Buddhism


following herds of cattle from one grazing area to another. These nomads crossed the great grassy plain of central Asia as if it were a sea and their horses and chariots, ships. Such nomads would play an important role in the spread of culture and trade across Asia, between the West and the East. The Aryans, however, broke off from them. Like Alexander the Great over a thousand years later, they struggled through the difficult mountain passes to the fertile lands of the Indian subcontinent.

Change in the Indus Valley

The word Aryan means "the Noble Ones." These proud invaders brought with them a new way of life, galloping across the river plains in their horse-drawn chariots. You can imagine the shock and fear of the Indus Valley people as these swift-moving foreigners charged into their villages. They had never seen anything faster than a lumbering mule cart.

Besides horses and chariots, the Aryans brought livestock. At first the Aryans lived much as they had on the steppe, wandering the hills and valleys in search of grazing land, and raiding villages to steal cattle.

In time they saw the advantages of settling down. Over the centuries, the Aryans became farmers, using fire to clear the land. Aryan religion also began to develop within this period of gradual change. By about 800 B.C., the Aryans had developed a stable agricultural society that would influence the subcontinent for centuries to come.

Curious Facts

Many of our words come from the ancient Indus Valley. Our word pedal is related to the Sanskrit word pets, meaning foot. Father is related to the Sanskrit pitar. Roughly half the people on earth speak a language that comes from Indo-European roots.

---The painting above shows a scene from the Bhagavad-Gita.

---Model ox carts like the one at left were popular toys for Indus Valley children. This example is made from terra cotta, a kind of clay. Research: Find out as much as you can about the history of toymaking.



Focus What are the main teachings of Hinduism?

---Hindu shrines like this can be found all across India. Culture: How is this temple like other houses of worship you have seen ?

We might never have known about the Aryans if religion had not been so important to them. Sometime between 1500 B.C. and 1000 B.C., Aryans in the Indus Valley began composing over a thousand hymns, and other writings in praise of their gods. These writings, known as the Vedas (VAY duh), are the most ancient and sacred of Hindu religious texts.

Along with their ancient gods, the Aryans also brought a new way of organizing society — the caste system. Originally there were four castes, or levels of society: priests, warriors, merchants, and peasants. In time there were hundreds of castes, all interacting in a complex way. Eventually these Aryan beliefs, blended with those of the Indus Valley people, would flower into the powerful and lasting religion called Hinduism.

"Where are we born, where do we live, and where are we going?"

Tell Me More

Siva: Creator and Destroyer

Hinduism has many gods. The god Siva is shown in this bronze, dancing. For Hindus, Siva's dance is all life — he is the creator of the universe, its preserver and its destroyer.

1. Siva's head: His expression is calm, symbolizing his role as the "unmoved mover."

2.  Siva's Arms: His back right hand holds a drum, a symbol of his power of creation. Siva's front right hand is raised in a gesture that means "fear not." His back left hand holds a blazing flame — his power of destruction — while his front left hand points to his foot, which stands for grace.

3. The Arch of Flames: This represents the cycle of creation, destruction, and rebirth.

4. The Demon: Siva stands on a dwarf-like demon while doing a dance intended to free the world of illusion.


These questions are what the Hindu            writings called the Upanishads try to answer. The last Upanishads were written about 200 years after the Vedas. In many ways they show what happened to the early Aryan religion celebrated in the Vedas. Over the centuries, their rituals and hymns became more complex. By the time of the Upanishads, the basic Hindu beliefs were worked out.

For the early Aryans of the Vedas, rituals and sacrifice had been everything. As time passed and Hinduism grew, a new kind of spirituality was born. This new thinking made proper living more important than ritual.

A Universal Force

The goal in life according to the Hinduism of the Upanishads is to free the individual soul, or atman, by joining it with brahman, or the universal life force. Hindus believe it takes more than one lifetime to free the soul. Thus a soul must be reborn into another body, passing through as many of these rebirths as it takes until it reaches the highest level of spiritual understanding. Known as reincarnation, this process of rebirth can mean coming back in the form of either a human or an animal. Knowing this, many Hindus take care to practice ahimsa – not injuring any living thing.

To gain the perfect understanding that leads to the freedom of the soul, Hindus may practice various forms of yoga. Yoga is a form of exercise that is both physical and mental. Fasting and religious pilgrimages are also important for Hindus seeking oneness with the universe.

Hinduism Today

After thirty-five centuries Hinduism thrives. In modern-day India there are hundreds of thousands of Hindu holy men, known as sadhus and swamis. Poems from the Vedas may be recited at family occasions. On certain holidays children reenact the stories of heros from ancient epics. Children also take part in Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, when they place hundreds of tiny lamps around their homes. Today Hinduism remains a vital part of life for over 760 million people — over 900,000 of them living in the United States.

---In this painting, the Hindu god Krishna appears standing and wearing a crown, below the tall figure with outstretched arms.

Ask Yourself

What are your thoughts about the practice of ahimsa? How do you think such a practice might be adapted into a form of protest?



Focus What are the main teachings and practices of Buddhism?

A monk's robe and prayer beads. The saffron color has a special meaning for Buddhists.

Around 2,600 years ago, some people living in the Ganges River valley grew dissatisfied with the Hindu religion. They questioned the truth of the sacred Veda texts. A religious movement was born. One of its leaders was Siddhartha Gautama (sih DAHR tah GAW tuh muh).

Most of what we know about Siddhartha is based on accounts that were carefully handed down by word of mouth for four centuries, then put into writing. Several accounts say he was born around 540 B.C. as prince of a kingdom. His father wanted him to be a warrior and ruler. Even as a young man, Siddhartha grew tired of his life of luxury and began to search for a more meaningful existence. While driving his chariot beyond the castle walls, Siddhartha was stunned to see a man who was very sick, another man who was old and frail, and a third man who had died. These

---A monk’s robe and prayer beads. The saffon color has a special meaning for Buddhists.

Tell Me More

The Buddha: Enlightened One

Artists have made many pictures and sculptures of the Buddha over the centuries. The Buddha can be shown in many different postures. Each posture represents an event in the Buddha's life or an aspect of his teachings. In this stone carving from the late 800s, the wise man sits in meditation beneath a sacred tree.

1. The small bump, or topknot, on the Buddha's head represents his enlightenment. Some stories say he grew a second brain to contain his enlightened wisdom. The topknot covers this second brain.

2. This posture is called "touching the earth." While the Buddha meditated, Buddhist tra­dition says, he was attacked by a god called Mara, the Tempter. The Buddha touched the earth and asked it to be a witness to his goodness. This helped him defeat Mara.


three encounters filled the prince with despair. From that day forward, Siddhartha decided to lead a religious life.

Siddhartha abandoned the luxury and power. For six years, he fasted and thought deeply in an attempt to let go of the world. His ribs poked from his chest and his weary eyes sank into their sockets, but no great spiritual realization came. Eventually, Siddhartha gave up his life of hardship in favor of a middle path rejecting both luxury and self-denial.

---Young monks like these are a common sight in Buddhist countries.


Then, when he was 35 years old, Siddhartha sat down under a Bodhi tree and began to meditate. Early one morning, his mind was filled with a deep understanding about the nature of suffering and the way to overcome it. This experience was the Great Enlightenment, which transformed him into the Buddha, or "Enlightened One."

The great religion of Buddhism sprang from the experiences of Siddhartha. Buddhists believe in rebirth, but not in a permanent soul or in the caste system. They believe selfish desire causes human suffering.

The ultimate goal in Buddhism is to let go of greed, hatred, and ignorance. Achieving this goal leads to a serene state of mind known as nirvana. This blissful state is eternal. Nirvana is realized while a person is still alive, but lasts beyond death.

Over the centuries Buddhism spread from India to the rest of Asia. There are many different forms of Buddhism, some of which are found mainly in certain countries. Zen Buddhism, for instance, is found chiefly in Japan. Zen stresses the quest for a state of spiritual bliss called satori.

Buddhism Today

Although Buddhism declined in India, it today has over 300 million followers worldwide, including more than 200,000 in the United States.

---see timeline on page 133


Every year, usually in the spring, Buddhists around the world celebrate a holiday known in this country as Buddha's Birthday. In Japan, children celebrate this day by building a canopy of flowers over a statue of a baby Buddha, then pouring sweet tea over the statue. Throughout the year, Buddhist holy men and women throughout the world still practice the ancient disciplines of poverty, meditation, and study.

Then & Now

The four-lion symbol was first used by the emperor Asoka in the 200s B.C. Today, this symbol is on India's national emblem. Only three of the lions are visible. Beneath the lion symbol can be found these words, in Sanskrit: Truth alone triumphs.

---Sculptures of four lions standing back to back were a favorite symbol of Asoka's. The wheel on the statue's base is a symbol of Buddha. The whole carving was once mounted on a tall pillar that proclaimed Asoka's laws. Citizenship: How might posting his laws on pillars have helped Asoka govern?

Rise of the Mauryan Empire

Focus What role did Buddhism play in the Mauryan Empire?

Shortly after Alexander the Great swept through the Hindu Kush and invaded India in 327 B.c., a young man named Chandragupta (chuhn drub GUP tuh) rose to the throne of the most brilliant and long-lasting Indian dynasty—the Mauryan (MOR ee uhn) Empire.

Little is known about Chandragupta's origins. Some sources say he began in poverty, others say he was a noble. One story even says that he met Alexander, who used the occasion to make fun of him.

What is known is that Chandragupta was a brilliant, ruthless ruler. When Alexander left India, the young Indian swiftly pounced on the weak regime the conqueror had left behind. By 305 B.C. Chandragupta had met and defeated Alexander's representative in battle. In one stroke the man Alexander the Great had joked about had become India's first emperor.

Under Chandragupta's strong rule, India was fairly peaceful and prosperous. Chandragupta also supported scholars and poets in his court. With the advice of his stern minister, Kautilya, the founder of the Mauryan Empire gained a reputation for cold-blooded efficiency that would become his family legacy - until his grandson came to the throne.



When Chandragupta's grandson Asoka (ah SHO kuh) became emperor, the Mauryan empire was at its largest, covering most of the Indian subcontinent. At first Asoka behaved as ruthlessly as the earlier emperors. Then his behavior suddenly changed. After witnessing a bloody military campaign that caused thousands of deaths, the ruler began to stress a different aspect of Buddhist philosophy than his grandfather had. Asoka ordered new laws, or edicts, erected on stone pillars throughout the empire. Rock Edict II stated simply:

All men are my children. Just as I seek the welfare and happiness of my own children in this world and the next, I seek the same .things for all men.”

---A stupa is a bell-shaped monument made of masonry, meant to be used as a Buddhist shrine. Some of those from the time of the Mauryan Empire can still be found in India.

With his vast power Asoka swiftly spread Buddhism throughout the subcontinent. He built thousands of stupas, which are dome-shaped shrines commonly found in Buddhist countries. His representatives spread Buddhism throughout Southeast Asia. Today Asoka is considered by many to have been one of India's most influential and successful leaders.

Lesson Review

1. Key Vocabulary: Use caste, reincarnation, and yoga to write a paragraph about Hinduism.

2. Focus: What effect did Aryan migration            Asoka's Buddhism differ from have on Indian culture?       

3. Focus: What are the main teachings of Hinduism?

4. Focus: What are the main teachings and practices of Buddhism?

5. Focus: What role did Buddhism play in the Mauryan Empire?

6. Critical Thinking: Compare How did Asoka’s Buddhism differ from Chandragupta’s?

7. Theme: Lasting Beginnings How do Indians still maintain ancient religions?

8. Citizenship/Art Activity: Make a chart comparing Hinduism and Buddhism?


Lesson 3

The Geography

of Ancient China

Main Idea Rugged terrain both protected and isolated ancient China.

Key Vocabulary basins



When orbiting astronauts pass over China, they can see a wrig­gling gray ribbon that zigzags from China's eastern coast to Gansu (gahn soo) Province in the north — the distance from Baltimore to Denver. Although the ribbon seems to bend and twist like a great river, it is not a river or a natural feature at all. It was built by humans.

Key Places

Great Wall of China

Yangtze River

Yellow River

What the astronauts see is the Great Wall of China. The Chinese began building this barrier of earth and stone more than 2,000 years ago to defend China against possible invasion from the north. For parts of its length, it follows China's great Yellow River, hugging the edges of the mountains and valleys in its path. A massive structure, if pulled into a straight line the Great Wall would extend for over 4,000 miles — roughly the distance from New York to San Francisco and back again as far as Dallas!

For centuries the wall's solid presence discouraged invasion from the north, while great mountains and oceans protected China's other borders. The longest continuous construction project in history, the wall's first sections were probably built in the 400s B.C. Work was still being done as late as the A.D. 1600s.

---Thousands of miles long, the Great Wall took generations to build. Citizenship: Do you think the wall was worth spending lives for?


Natural Borders, Fertile Valleys

Focus How did China's geography affect people in ancient times?

For centuries the people of China believed they were living at the center of the world, or at least the center of civilization. They called their country Zhonghua (joong gwoh), which means "middle country." Stretching for millions of square miles across Asia, this middle land was protected on three sides. To the south and east lay the Pacific, the largest ocean in the world. In the west stood the earth's highest mountains and one of its widest, most deadly deserts. Only in the north was there a gap — a broad grassy lowland called the North China Plain. Horsemen from Central Asia could easily gallop across this flat land and invade, as they had done in India. This was the gap the Great Wall was built to close.

Find China's mountain chains in the map above. As you can see, almost half of China is mountainous. Many of the mountains surround huge, bowl-shaped plateaus or basins, such as the Tarim (TAH reem) Basin in the northwest. This vast landform contains one of Asia's driest deserts. Today these vast, barren areas are a productive part of modern China. They were useless to the ancient Chinese. Only about 10 percent of the land that is now China could support crops. For this reason, Chinese civilization sprouted in the fertile river valleys to the east.

---Farmland in Guizhou Province. Why do you suppose the land is carved into steps? MAP SKILL: What river flows through this area?


---Many types of animals — such as this giant panda — can be found in China and nowhere else in nature. GEOGRAPHY: Why do you think this is so?

China's high mountain walls were a mixed blessing. Although the mountains kept out invaders, they also prevented easy trade and cultural exchange with other countries. China's extreme isolation had fascinating results in the natural world. Whole species, or varieties, of plants and animals are unique to China. Among these is the giant panda.

The Silk Road

Despite China's impressive natural barriers, as early as the second century B.C. the ancient Chinese did succeed in establishing trade with countries as far away as Rome. The route this trade took is known as the Silk Road. This was not an actual road. Rather, it was a series of different merchants trading from one to the other along a route that covered thousands of miles. Chinese merchants would trade silk and spices for the big, strong horses owned by the nomads of the north. The nomads, in turn, would trade the silk farther west as they crossed Central Asia's grassy sea to Mesopotamia. Eventually the silk would reach Rome, though no single individual at the time knew exactly how it got there!

Silk was not China's only product. A great deal of farming took place in early China's wet and fertile river valleys. The valleys provide a variety of crops, including rice, wheat, and soybeans. Because parts of South China are tropical, pineapples, bananas, and oranges can be grown there.

On the map on the previous page, trace the path of the Yangtze (yang DZEE), which runs from west to east through central China. It twists and turns around a series of basins. Connecting the interior of the country with the Pacific Ocean, the Yangtze is China's longest river. Its tributaries provide China with a huge transportation network. The Huang He, or Yellow River, is the second largest river in China. It gets its name from the yellowish clay it picks up as it cuts through valleys on its seaward journey

---A fertile valley in mountainous China. The pillars in the background are actually the limestone remains of washed away mountains.


---Tonglushan Copper Mine

Mines like this provided tons of copper ore, which could then be refined and mixed with tin to make bronze.

1. First a shaft would be dug to the bottom of a seam of copper - over 150 feet down.

2. Next, horizontal shafts would be dug along the seam so ore could be mined.

3. Deep vertical shafts were used to send up ore and ground water.

4. Winches like this were used to haul the loads up.

5. Heavy planks lined the shafts.

---Mines like the one at Tonglushan provided copper to make bronze for weapons, ritual vessels, and artwork.

from the Kunlun mountains.

Even more than most countries, China's geography was a kind of recipe for its history, with mountains as the major ingredient. Shut off from the world — except for its contact with Central Asia's nomads - China developed on its own. It had all the farmland it needed, and plenty of copper for making a useful metal, called bronze. Protected by barriers both natural and man-made, and possessing enough resources to support a growing nation, Chinese civilization blossomed.

Lesson Review: Geography

1. Key Vocabulary: Use basin and species to describe the geography of China.

2. Focus: How did China’s geography affect people in ancient times?

3. Critical Thinking: Conclude Why might the nomads of Central Asia have been very important to the development of China?

4. Citizenship: Today China has a difficult relationship with western countries. How might China’s past have influenced modern China’s politics?

5. Citizenship/Art Activity: Make a drawing that shows China’s major regions. Decide on a symbol to illustrate each region.


Lesson 4

The Culture and Philosophy of

Ancient China

Main Idea Chinese culture survived intact for thousands of years.

Key Vocabulary


Civil war


For centuries China's earliest dynasty, the Shang, was considered a myth. Even in the sixth century B.C. Confucius, the great Chinese philosopher, doubted the existence of the Shang dynasty. "How can we talk about their ritual?" he once asked. "There is a lack of both docu­ments and learned men."

It was not until 1899 that documents and learning came together by chance in a hospital room. When a Chinese scholar visited a friend in the hospital, he discovered his friend was being treated with a medicine made from tortoise shells. Picking up one of the shells, the scholar made a stunning discovery – the shell was covered with ancient writing. In time, the men discovered where the shells had come from, and the mystery of the Shang dynasty began to unravel. Thousands of shells and bones covered with ancient writing were found in the years that followed. Eventually their purpose became clear. The shells had been used to tell fortunes!

Key Events

221 B.C. Unification

87 B.C. Height of the Han dynasty

Early Chinese Inventions

Shang: c. 1700 —1050 B.C. Beautifully cast bronzes like this elephant, used as a container for wine, were typical of the Shang dynasty.

Zhou: 1050-221 B. Compasses like this he Chinese as early as the dynasty to find their w on land and sea.



Fu Hao C. 1300 B.C.

Fu Hao was one of the most remarkable women in Chinese history. The wife of an emperor, Fu Hao was given com­mand of her own army of 13,000 troops. Using brilliant tactics she put down many revolts. Later she proved an able administrator. Her tomb was discovered in 1976.

Early Cultural Achievements

Focus What were the earliest cultural achievements of ancient China?

China's long rise from the early settlements that grew up along its river valleys to the great empires that began with the Shang dynasty took many centuries. Tropical jungles had to be cleared, enemies had to be defeated, and new ways of tilling the soil had to be invented. The basis of Chinese culture, however, was formed at an early date. People in China invented a great many tools and systems of thought centuries before the rest of the world. Chinese values, scholarship, and family life grew to become lasting traditions. These traditions were encouraged and sometimes enforced by China's many dynasties.

By the time China's first dynasty, the Shang, began around 1700 B.C., stone tools were being replaced by bronze, marking the end of the Stone Age. The civilization that grew up on the plains of the Yellow River boasted powerful warriors. These men fashioned armor and shields and used powerful bows made from horns. Like the Aryans, they rode into battle on two-wheeled chariots. They also had sharp axes to fling at their enemies.

During the Shang dynasty, the independent lives of villages gave way to a system of landowners and slaves. A capital was built for the king and other officials. There was still no strong central government, but the king controlled many important duties. He was supported by noble families made up of his relatives and local chiefs. The family was valued. Young people respected their elders. People worshipped their ancestors, asking for their advice through religious rituals.

Han: 206 B.C. — 220 A.D. Making paper, like these samples on the right, was perfected in China during the Han dynasty — hundreds of years before the West would begin its manufacture.

Qin: 221 — 206 B.C. The humble wheelbarrow was one of the triumphs of the Qin era. This simple device allowed one man to carry up to four tons.



1. First the silk worm creates a cocoon of silk threads.

2. Next, the silk threads are  spun onto spools.

3. Finally, the spun silk is woven to create a finished garment. The example above is from
the Han dynasty.

China Evolves

About 3,000 years ago the Shang dynasty was swallowed up by warlike people from the west known as the Zhou (SHOO). Throughout history cultures have flourished only to be destroyed by enemies. Instead of

wiping out the Shang's accomplishments, however, the Zhou dynasty preserved and strengthened them. In many ways, they merely picked up where the Shang had left off.

The Zhou marched their armies throughout north China and the Yangzi valley, bringing Shang culture with them. They controlled their lands by putting them under the rule of warriors who commanded large armies. Once the Zhou were firmly in control of a region, they organized communities by dividing the land into squares and assigning them to peasants. Aside from working their own plots, the peasants also worked

together to cultivate a central piece of land for the warrior lords of the region. During the Zhou dynasty, iron tools were invented, and agriculture increased. Iron-tipped plows drawn by oxen allowed farmers
to raise more crops. They grew wheat, rice, beans, and fruit.

According to the Zhou, heaven had given them a mandate, or permission to rule. This idea became known as the "heavenly mandate." Those in heaven who gave permission were said to be the ancestors of the

ruling class. By the eighth century B.C. the authority of the Zhou was being questioned. By the fifth century, the open rebellion of the Zhou's own warrior states drove the Zhou from power. The fighting over
supreme rule of China would go on for almost 200 years. This time would come to be known as the Warring States period.

Confucius and Lao Tzu

Focus What are the main teachings of Confucianism and Taoism?

If a ruler himself is upright, all will go without. orders. But if he himself is not upright, even though he gives orders, they will not be obeyed."

The man who wrote these words was Kongfuzi, but we know him as Confucius (kuhn FY00 shuhs). He was born in 551 B.C. in a small Chinese province. Confucius wanted to be a teacher, yet he was born just
before the period of the Warring States, a violent time more suited to warriors. China seemed to be falling apart. Confucius dreamed of a former era when people respected their ancestors and followed their


leaders. Was there a way, he wondered, to restore a spirit of honesty?

With this goal in mind, Confucius created a philosophy, known to us as Confucianism, that would affect China for centuries to come.

The cornerstone of his philosophy was to treat others as you would like to be treated. Confucius wanted peace. He imagined a government in which the ruler behaved as a loving father and all the people obeyed. He reasoned that if the man at the top behaved well, everyone under him would become good by example. According to Confucius' principle of the Five Relationships, there is a correct relationship between ruler and subjects, parent and child, elder and younger brother, husband and wife, and friend and friend. The principle stresses polite, respectful behavior and a high regard for learning.

Confucius' ideas have survived, even though China's current government discourages interest in his teachings. His commonsense sayings are still quoted by parents to their children, and scholars all over the world still study him.

Lao dzu and Taoism

Around the time of Confucius another philosopher saw the world very differently. His name was Lao­

tzu (low dzuh), and his belief was that order and harmony come not from society but from nature. His advice to those seeking calm and reason would be to go up into the hills and watch the clouds, or
sit near a babbling stream.

Lao-tzu urged those seeking order to follow the Way, or Tao. Animals follow the Tao naturally, claimed Lao-tzu. Only humans argue about the big questions of right and wrong. In Taoism, people pull back from the world of humans and learn from observation of nature not to seek after useless things or create unnecessary argument. Like Confucianism, Taoism would become an influential philosophy for hundreds of years to come.

---Confucius was often shown as a aged, bearded scholar. CULTURE: Why would it make sense to
show Confucius as a kind of father figure?

---Lao-tzu was often shown laughing, as he is in this bronze. The bull on which he sits stands for the natural world he loved.


Ask Yourself

Emperor Shihuangdi unified China, but he also passed a law calling for the burning of books. How do you
feel about this law? Do you think destroying books means something more than destroying other kinds of
property? Why?

Age of Empires, Age of Scholars

Focus I How did the rise of scholars help Chinese civilization?

In 221 B.C. the Warring States period was finally brought to a close. Calling himself Shihuangdi (shur hwahng dee), or "first great emperor," one man brought the divided states under the rule of his own dynasty —

the Qin (CHIN). Forever after, all of China would be named after this dynasty. The word "China" comes from the word "Qin."

China would not find the road to unification easy. Having conquered all the so-called Warring States, Shihuangdi declared himself China's total master. He took land away from noble families and organized their holdings into 36 provinces. He established a standard system of coinage, then standardized weights and measures. Even the distance between cart wheels was standardized. Then Shihuangdi began to build. He built roads, canals, and irrigation systems. The emperor next looked to the north, saw the threat of a nomad invasion, and directed the building of the Great Wall. This project nearly ruined the first generation that worked on it, as thousands of people were forced to spend their entire lives in hard labor.

During the Qin dynasty China absorbed other lands until the empire stretched from Southern Manchuria in the east to the Yellow River in the

Tell Me More

An Emperor's Tomb

The Find of a Lifetime

When archaeologists uncovered the Qin emperor Shihuangdi's tomb in the 1970s, they knew they
were making history. Standing in three enormous pits was an enormous army of clay soldiers —
over 5,000 strong!

1. The first pit contained over 1,000 fully excavated, life-size terra cotta clay warriors.

2. Each figure's face was unique. This was done by mixing and matching pre-made noses, moustaches and beards!

3. The soldiers were originally set up in orderly ranks, in real battle formation. Each man held an actual weapon.

4.  Each warrior needed to be carefully restored.


west. Keeping order in the empire was expensive and difficult. Shihuangdi had to raise taxes and force people to serve in his large army. He considered the ideas of Confucius and other philosophers dangerous to his
rule and tried to suppress all ideas except those spread by the government. It is said that the emperor was so anxious to maintain power that he sometimes disguised himself as a commoner and went traveling, making notes about every law he saw being disobeyed. In 213 B.C. he issued a law calling for the burning of all books not approved by him.

By the end of Shihuangdi's reign, many common people hated him for forcing them into the army or to work on the Great Wall. Nobles resented the power he had taken from them. Scholars hated him for burning books. He began to carry a sword as he sat on the throne. Legend has it that several times he used the weapon to defend himself against assassins. Finally, civil war —fierce fighting within a single nation — broke out. The Qin dynasty crumbled.

---Over thousands of years Chinese writing has changed remarkably little. The words, or characters, above show just how little.


---In the painting above, would-be bureaucrats take the exam that will decide their futures. The exam was seen as so important that some people risked the punishment of death and cheated. The handkerchief below the painting was used in just such a way over 2,000 years ago.

The Scholars Govern

During the civil war, a rebel leader from a poor family named Liu Bang seized power. In 202 B.C. he declared himself emperor and founded the Han dynasty. This dynasty would reverse the Qin's policies against Confucianism. It would promote Confucian philosophy as a powerful tool of the government.

The age of the first Han dynasty, which lasted about 200 years, was the age of scholars. The great Imperial Library, which had been destroyed during the rule of the Qin, was restored. Books on literature, philosophy, poetry, math, medicine, and war were collected.

In 124 B.C., an official school, known as the Imperial Academy, was created. It taught only the philosophy of Confucius and his many followers. By spreading the ideas of Confucianism, the Han created an empire that was more stable than the Qin Empire had been. Anyone who wished to play a part in ruling the empire went through a series of exams. Aside from needing to know how to write, the exam taker had to have memorized most of the sayings of Confucius and other philosophers. Those who passed these difficult exams were in a position to acquire power through politics. This meant that even a man of little wealth who managed to learn to read and write might someday rise in the ranks of Chinese society.

These scholars spread Confucius' ideas of respect and order throughout the empire. Their positions were clearly defined to work together in a complicated way. They formed a vast bureaucracy, which is a government with a large set of roles, rules, and levels of power. The main duties of the scholar bureaucrats were taking the census and registering land for taxation. But they also handled local justice and education and built roads, parks, and public buildings. The bureaucracy turned China from a society that had been divided between poor farmers and nobles into one that was divided between the educated and the uneducated. For the first time, scholars formed a part of the government.


The Mighty Han

By about 87 B.C., China had extended its boundaries almost to what they           today. Enemies could hardly resist the Chinese. During the Han dynasty, the Chinese had invented a crossbow that was more powerful and accurate than any other weapon at the time. Also during the Han dynasty,    China began to have more contact with the rest of the world. The dynasty traded with its nomadic neighbors who carried Chinese silk and other goods as far as Rome. By the third century B.C., large numbers of people and merchandise found transport on a newly built waterway, known as the Magic Canal, which linked two major Chinese rivers.

An ancient earthquake warning system. When a tremor began, are bronze ball would drop into the mouth of the nearest frog!

Developed under the Han rulers, the Chinese system of bureaucracy, controlled by strict rules of behavior in the spirit of Confucius, kept China together for over a thousand years. Even when governments fell and new groups struggled for power, Chinese society remained stable, certain that it understood right from wrong.

It was not until the mid-100s A.D. that China's proud Han dynasty first quavered and then began to crack. Nevertheless the Han period is the one that the Chinese have most identified with over time. In fact, in Chinese, their country is not called China, but Han.

Lesson Review

11700 B.C.

The Shang China's first dynasty established.

121 B.C.

China Unified Shihuangdi founds Qin dynasty, declares himself emperor.

87 B.C.

Height of the Han By this date China had almost reached its modern shape.

1. Key Vocabulary: Use the words mandate, civil war, and bureaucrat in a paragraph about the rule of scholars in China.

2.  Focus. What were the earliest cultural achievements of ancient China?

3. Focus: What are the main teachings of Confucianism and Taoism?

4. Focus: How did the rise of scholars help Chinese civilization?

5. Critical Thinking: Conclude How might the Qin dynasty have avoided civil war?

6. Theme: Lasting Beginnings What Chinese inventions do we still use today?

7. Citizenship/Research Activity: Research the role scholars have played in the history of our own government.




Forming Hypotheses Using Parallel Timelines

Two Roads

If the Shang dynasty had not had two-wheeled chariots, do you think it would have become as powerful in China as it did? How did chariots contribute to the collapse of the Indus Valley civilization?

Parallel timelines can help answer these questions. These are time­ lines that let you compare events in two or more different places during the same period. When you read parallel timelines, you can develop a
hypothesis, a possible explanation for why events happened. You can test your hypothesis by researching other sources.

Ancient India and Ancient China 2,500 B.C.-1,500 B.C.

2500 B.C. Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa arise as centers of Indus River Valley civilization. Cotton is cultivated.

2350 B.C. Trade between the Indus Valley                 and Mesopotamia flourishes.

2500 B.C. Chinese civilization develops in the Yangtze and Yellow River valleys. Millet becomes a major crop.

2000 B.C. The Chinese master silk spinning, casting bronze, and glazing pottery. Some trade begins in China.


1. Here's How

Below are parallel timelines showing events in the development of ancient China and ancient India.

•      Read the timelines, looking at all the events listed.  Notice that the main idea of both is the develop­ment of ancient cultures. One shows ancient India, and the other shows ancient China.

•      Compare events in both places at roughly the same time. For example, in 1500 B.C., in both China and India, the two-wheeled chariot played a role in changing the civilization.

•      Look at events that lead up to the last date on each timeline. Notice that before the arrival of two-wheeled chariots in India, the Indus Valley civilization was declining. In China, the Shang dynasty was developing.

•      Form a hypothesis about events that led to changes in both civilizations. For example, you might look at the arrival of two-wheeled chariots and decide what effect this may have had in both India and China.

•      Check reference sources in your library to find out if your hypothesis is correct.

2. Think It Through

How does seeing parallel timelines help you see similarities and differences between two cultures?

3. Use It

1. Study the timelines. Make a list of similarities and differences between the two civilizations at different times.

2. Form a hypothesis about the development of these  two cultures. Use library sources to see if you can
find evidence for your explanation.

1750 B.C.

Indus Valley civilization declines.

1500 B.C.

Aryans use two-wheeled chariots to dominate the Indus Valley.

1750 B.C.

The Shang dynasty uses two-wheeled chariots to gain power in China.


Chapter 5

Chapter Review

---See timeline on page 150

Summarizing The Main Idea

1. Copy the chart below and fill in the missing information to compare the civilizations of ancient India and China.

                                             India                                      China


Dynasty or People

Important Ruler

Religion or Philosophy

Cultural Achievement


2. Use at least eight of the following terms to write the biography of a leader, political or religious, of ancient India or China.

passes (p. 125)        

subcontinent (p.125)          

monsoon (p. 126)    

caste (p. 130)

reincarnation (p. 131)

yoga (p. 131)

edict (p. 135)

basin (p. 137)

species (p. 138)

mandate (p. 142)

civil war (p. 145)

bureaucrat (p. 146)

Reviewing the Facts

3. How were the monsoons important to ancient India's civilization?

4. How did the Aryans change life in the Indus Valley?

5. What was the caste system?

6. How did China’s geography affect its history?

7. What were some Chinese inventions, and in which dynasty were they invented?

8. What were some of the steps Shihuangdi took to unify his empire?

9. How did China's geography affect its history?    part of the Han dynasty bureaucracy?

Skill Review: Forming a Hypothesis Using Parallel Timelines

10 Using information in the parallel timelines on pages 148-149, what might you hypothesize about the value of a chariot as a military weapon?

11. What major geographical feature aided the rise of civilization in both India and China?

12. How might seeing the similarities and differences between two civilizations aid your understanding of both of them?

Geography Skills

13. Study the map of India on page 126 and the map of China on page 137. What similarities do you see? What are some of the differences?

14. You are the Royal Engineer of the Qin dynasty, and you’ve just completed a survey of the nation’s natural defenses. Write a report to Emperor Shihuangdi on your position on the need to build the Great Wall.

Critical Thinking

15. Generalize Why do you think so many early m Compare Develop a chart to describe some of

civilizations formed near major rivers?

16. Conclude Why would little be known about India’s prehistoric inhabitants?

17. Compare Develop a chart to describe some of the similarities between Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism.

Writing: Citizenship and History

18. Citizenship Write a help wanted for leaders to help run the Han dynasty. Include the qualities you would want in an administrator.

19. History If you were alive during Shihuangdi’s reign, what would you have thought of him? Write a letter to a friend describing your feelings about his actions, and how you plan to respond.



Several historical figures, both religious and political, are mentioned in the chapter. Do research to find out more about Siddhartha Gautama, or the Buddha, Chandragupta, Asoka, Confucius, Lao-tzu, or Shihuangdi.


Four great Asian religions or philosophies are discussed in the chapter. Each has many religious writings. Find examples of these writings and share them with the class.

Theme Project Check-In

Consider these questions as you create the details of your civilization:

•      What was the climate like there? How did this affect the civilization?

•      Did the civilization have any religions? If so, what role did they play?

•      Did your civilization try to increase its land and power? If so, why and how did it do this?

Internet Option

Check the Internet Social Studies Center for ideas on how to extend your theme project beyond your



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